A national class-action lawsuit against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, alleging failure to provide a workplace free from bullying, intimidation, and harassment, has been certified by the Federal Court of Canada.

The class action seeks more than $1.1 billion in damages on behalf of all current and former RCMP members and civilians, special constables and reservists who worked for the national force between Jan. 1, 1995, and the date a collective agreement becomes or became applicable to a bargaining unit to which they belong.

Veteran Mounties Geoffrey Greenwood and Todd Gray, of Alberta, the representative plaintiffs, allege a culture of systemic bullying, intimidation and harassment permeated the organization from its highest levels and affected everyone who worked for the national force.

The RCMP denies the allegations, which have yet to be proven in court.

The certification on Sept. 20  follows the Supreme Court of Canada’s rejection in March of the federal government’s attempt to stop the massive class action from proceeding.

“There is no room for harassment, bullying and intimidation in the RCMP,” the force said in a news release issued Sept. 24 from its headquarters in Ottawa.

“It is incumbent on every employee to come forward and speak out against this behaviour, and for our leaders and supervisors to take immediate action to stop it.

“We continue to strongly encourage anyone who feels they are the victim of inappropriate behaviour to report it. Prevention is key to ensuring that the workplace remains a safe and respectful space for everyone.”

Must opt out, no cost to participate

Eligible members will automatically be included in the class action unless they complete a form to opt out by Nov. 23.

There is no cost to be a class member. Counsel has entered into an agreement with the representative plaintiffs with respect to legal fees and disbursements, according to information on the RCMP’s website.

“This agreement provides that counsel will not receive payment for their work unless and until the class action is successful or monies are recovered from the defendants,” it states.

Under the current agreement, counsel will seek up to one-third of any damages awarded, but this must be approved by the court and the percentage awarded could be adjusted, the website notes.

The court has appointed Toronto-based Kim Spencer McPhee Barristers as class counsel.

Anyone who has an ongoing lawsuit with respect to bullying, intimidation or harassment in the RCMP, and wishes to participate in the class action, must discontinue their lawsuit before 5 p.m., ET, on Nov. 23.

The Attorney General of Canada had appealed the class action to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing an RCMP member’s claims of harassment and bullying can be addressed by filing a grievance or harassment complaint or through an internal RCMP code of conduct investigation.

But in their statement of claim, Greenwood and Gray contend internal channels to handle such complaints are ineffective because they depend upon the chain of command, which they allege is often made up of people who were either responsible for the offending behaviour or acted to protect others.

The Supreme Court, as usual, did not give its reasons in dismissing the federal government’s application for leave to appeal.

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